The Nautical Theme “Lows and Highs” (Independent, 2020)

The Nautical Theme are an indie-folk duo from Deyton, Ohio. Their second album ‘Lows and Highs‘, continues to develop the sound they established on the 2018 record ‘Float‘. That sounds is a fairly traditional indie-folk offering; piano, guitar, shuffling drum beats and harmony vocals. The whole thing has a nice pop polish to it without being too commercial. The harmonies in particular really lift the overall sound into something more than the sum of its parts. 

In the main the record ticks along without too much to make you stop and take note. The sound is good, and Tesia Mallory (vocals, keys) and Matt Shetler (vocals, guitar) are clearly accomplished musicians and songwriters.   A few tracks stand out in particular – ‘Family Lie‘ for its instant relatability and the personality in the lyrics, and final track ‘River‘ for its epic, soaring vocal harmonies.  Title track ‘Lows and Highs‘ is also great – a hook-laden and catchy ear-worm.

There are also some interesting influences on display – as well as the expected Civil Wars, there’s nods to Jimmy Eat World and Smashing Pumpkins. Indeed, the late-emo connection runs deeper – a few of the tracks were recorded by Micah Carli, formerly of Hawthorne Heights, and the record was mastered by John Naclerio who has worked with. among many others, My Chemical Romance. This influence comes across in an almost intangible way, but is most noticeable on Shetler’s vocals. Particularly on ‘Not Really Sure‘ and ‘Rest My Back‘. These tracks have a really interesting and different sound, it would be great to see the duo push this and really embrace these more alternative influences in the future.

These are the occasional moments of brilliance which put the record above the average indie-folk offering. In such an over-saturated genre it takes a lot to stand out, and The Nautical Theme are definitely on their way to making their mark. A lot of the album is still quite middle of the road, though, and won’t stop you in your tracks. That being said, the good tracks are really good, and hopefully there’s a lot more to come for this duo.

Indie-folk duo deliver more or less as expected, with dashes of alternative brilliance

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